Monday, January 22, 2018

Temper-Tantrum Politics - and Investing!

Another day, another gossipy book about Trump.

Trump has been a godsend for the media.  Late-night talk-show hosts have seen ratings soar.   Everyone waits to see what Alec Baldwin will do next on "SNL".   Newspaper sales are up - because "Democracy Dies in the Darkness - Sign Up Now For Amazon Prime!"

The latest book is more gossip, most of which is probably untrue or at least, irrelevant.  What the ITC or the FCC does with regulations is more important than what was tweeted last night.   But net neutrality?   BORING!  Change the channel!   Um, why is Netflix suddenly loading so slowly these days?

The book does discuss an interesting phenomenon - "Defiance Disorder" - which is actually a thing. Supposedly, aides claim that President Trump intentionally will do the opposite of what his advisers say to do, just to be defiant and prove them wrong (and himself a genius).  And oddly enough, this strategy sometimes works.  His entire campaign was based on doing the opposite of what traditional candidates did - the safe, message-neutral, inoffensive speeches and slogans that were scientifically designed to appeal to every demographic and tell disparate people what they wanted to hear, even if what they wanted to hear was the opposite of their neighbor, who also heard what they wanted to hear.  That's what you got out of Hillary - the carefully crafted and coiffed candidate, making sure she never said anything that wasn't on the teleprompter.  People felt it was fake.

And then Trump comes along and just talks trash - and people loved it.   Well, some people, anyway.  A certain core group of blue-collar workers, nativists, libertarians, populists, and right-wing Republicans ate up his messages not in spite of, but because they insulted minority groups, Democrats, and even other Republicans.   "He tells it like it is!" was the common refrain from the MAGA-hat crowd.

So, armed with this "success" (aided and abetted by the electoral college and Russia's Internet Research Agency as well as the Fancy Bear hacking of Democratic e-mails, not to mention unbathed rapist Julian Assange), Trump is emboldened.  Why the fuck do people think that crackpot is some sort of folk hero?  Assange, I mean, not Trump.   Well, I suppose it could apply to both.

But you can see where Trump is coming from.   Whenever he tries to be conventional, he doesn't get any attention and moreover whatever it is he is trying to do doesn't work.   When he goes into full-on batshit Twitter crazy mode, at least people notice him, and react.   Like a small child who cries for candy in the checkout line, we have trained him to do this.    Mother says "no" for fifteen minutes and then finally gives in to the crying brat - who learns than a candy bar costs fifteen minutes of crying.  Score, Brat: 1 Mom: 0.

But it got me thinking about this term, "Defiance Disorder" and whether it is something that all of us do or have done on occasion.   During the Obama administration, the cry of "don't tell us what to do!" was repeated again and again, for example, when Michelle Obama suggested that eating an entire platter of fried mayonnaise balls was, well, maybe bad for your heart.  It seems that since then, it has become a rallying cry against our "big, oppressive government" by people who have never been to China, Russia, or North Korea, and fail to understand what oppression really is like.

But it is not a recent trend.   I recounted before how my older siblings during the 1960's, denounced "materialism" and decided to live on a commune in an unheated barn for a decade - all in a fit of pique aimed at their parents' generation.   "We survived the depression and beat the Nazis, and built up this wonderful technological economy for you!" our parents' generation cried.  "Fuck you, Dad, you're the Nazi now!   I'm going off to join Charles Manson!" their kids replied - and many did just that, although maybe not that dramatically.   The entire 1960's "Peace and Love" movement was little more than a hissy-fit.   Again, folks like my siblings were in no danger of ever serving in the war they were protesting, thanks to deferments.  Nor were they in any danger of not being served at a lunch counter.   The poor, on the other hand, went and served, as they had no choice.  And they had to endure prejudice on a first-hand basis - something that largely all-white colleges at the time had little experience with.

Over the years, this pattern repeats itself again and again.  Today it is something as idiotic as the "Tide Pod Challenge" which stared as a satirical article in The Onion.   People are actually ingesting poison on a dare.  This makes the goldfish-swallowing craze of the 1920's seem pretty tame in comparison.  The more we say don't do it, the more they do it, just to defy us - as if we cared.

A friend of mine had a precocious child who was this way - at age five.   The more you said don't do something, the more likely he was to do it.  Maybe they should have said, "Don't do your homework!  If you do, I'll be really mad at you!" - and maybe the kid would sneak off to do his homework in secret.   I dunno, it could work.   Could it work on Trump?   Don't balance the budget, dammit!

But this "Defiance Disorder" goes beyond presidential five-year-olds.  I think a lot of these "new" investments fall along similar lines.   "Don't tell me what to do!" people cry, as they throw money away at "crowdfunding" or gold, or bitcoin, or an IPO, or a new Elio three-wheeled car.   "I can afford to gamble a little!" they say, at the time, but years later, lament, "how do I get my money back?"  "I'm calling a lawyer!" they cry, "I'll sue!" - all in typical temper-tantrum fashion.   Their wild schemes didn't work out and of course, it has to be someone else's fault.  Externalizing raises its ugly head, once again.

And maybe this "defiance disorder" is at the heart of many forms of addiction.   The addict wants to be "naughty" and fall off the wagon - just to prove to themselves that others are not "telling them what to do!" (of course, the pleasure associated with drug use just reinforces that they were "right" all along).  My late mother was a classic example of Defiance Disorder in action.   She loved to play "naughty" by having that extra drink or saying outrageous things just a little bit too loudly in public places, such as restaurants.   She loved to smoke, in part because so many people told her not to.   She was once frog-walked off an American Airlines flight after smoking in first class.   They asked her to stop, and like a petulant child, she refused.

Say - this pretty much characterizes all these "incidents" of people being dragged off airplanes these days.   They tap you on the shoulder and say, "I'm sorry, you have to get off" and instead of complying with the employees of the owner of the airplane, we throw a childish tantrum, lay down in the aisle, and force them to drag us off.   And petulant Americans all flock to Facebook to defend this horrific behavior - of the passenger that is.   The airline owns the plane - get the fuck off, if they ask you, it ain't your airplane.  And when you hear a story like this, don't rush off to social media in outrage until to you hear the whole story - otherwise you are just as guilty of Defiance Disorder as well.

It is an interesting human phenomenon.   If you point out someone's folly, you are only encouraging them to do it more, often just to prove you wrong.   As I noted in a recent post, you can't really teach people things through confrontation.  And as I noted in a very early post, if you see someone driving their car off a cliff, the only thing you can do is make sure you are not in the back seat at the time.

So what do we get out of this?   Well, the first step is to realize we are in it - all of us.   This attitude of defiance sort of characterizes the last decade or two.   During the Bush administration, people were rabidly anti-Republican.  During the Obama administration, a different (but oddly enough, sometimes overlapping) group was rabidly anti-Democrat.  Today, Democrats are exhorted to "Resist 45!" which sounds to me like the temper tantrum du jour.   Just lie down and start kicking and screaming - maybe "Daddy" will buy you a lollipop!

The idea that, gee, maybe we should look at the demographics of this nation, the electoral map, the State and local races, and put up a roster of candidates with reasonable, rational positions that resonate with a majority of voters seems alien to most.   Naw!  Bradley Manning!   Now that's a person qualified to serve in the august body of the Senate!  Oprah for President!  What could go wrong with having a celebrity television star as President?   I mean, the Trump thing is working out so well for us, right?

So maybe our reader is right - Trump will be in office for eight years.  Because that is how long it will take for the Democratic Party to overcome its temper tantrum, have a good cry, and then look around and realize things aren't so bad and that you don't have to go hard Left to win elections.

That might actually happen!   Of course, I may not live to see it.